International peace conference marks Good Friday/Belfast agreement

The Peace and Beyond conference will be held in Belfast this week to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement.

Taking place from April 10-12 on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, the conference provides an opportunity to look beyond Northern Ireland - and towards other international models of peacebuilding in countries including South Africa, Colombia, Lebanon, and the Western Balkans.

Speakers will include South African advocate Thuli Madonsela, who worked closely with former President Nelson Mandela on the final constitution of South Africa; Professor Monica McWilliams, who played a significant role in the negotiation of the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and Senator George J. Mitchell, President Bill Clinton’s former Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

Across the three days, there will be a series of lectures, plenary sessions, workshops, site visits and cultural events across Belfast around international peacebuilding, and will include; a civic reception at Belfast City Hall on the evening of April 10, the awarding of the Christopher Ewart Biggs memorial prize* – which is in memory of the UK’s ambassador to Ireland, and a series of visits to grassroots organisations on April 12.

The conference will cover key topics including building resilient cities, the role of technology, engendering peacebuilding and marginalised communities.

The conference is organised by the British Council in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, and in association with the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building, and will bring an exciting and diverse line-up of speakers to Northern Ireland in a bid to create international dialogue around peacebuilding.

Speaking about the conference was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland,

“‘International cultural relations are at the heart of the British Council’s work so we are really pleased to have convened this conference to address the challenges of peace processes across the globe.

“The conference will draw on a wide range of expertise from Northern Ireland. In spite of local setbacks, the experience of the NI peace process is of enormous international interest. But of course our focus will also be on the global and looking to the future.

“We have an impressive and diverse line-up of speakers from other post conflict countries such as South Africa and Colombia who will share their experiences.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Nuala McAllister said:

“It’s important that we take time to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and to look ahead to how we, as a society, can build on that historical peace that was achieved, two decades ago.

“Belfast has changed a lot in 20 years; and it has changed for the better. Like other young people of my generation, I have enjoyed the benefits of peace. We want Belfast to be a progressive, global city; open, welcoming and inclusive.

“We have witnessed its reputation change and now Belfast is rightly regarded as a good place to live, work and invest in. We must continue to build on that momentum and ensure that Belfast, and indeed Northern Ireland, continues to flourish so that generations to come can be assured of a bright future.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing the speakers and I’m delighted that delegates from all around the world will be hosted at City Hall for part of the conference.”

The closing lecture will take place at Ulster University.

Professor Duncan Morrow, Director of Community Engagement, Ulster University, said:

“Peace, conflict and reconciliation is a key research area at Ulster University and we are delighted to be a part of this conference which gathers practitioners, academics, policy makers and young leaders from across the world.

Peace and Beyond is about building effective, inclusive and sustainable peace. As Northern Ireland’s civic university our campuses are enshrined in their local communities.  We are proud to produce globally significant research with local relevance. This conference is an excellent opportunity to reflect on peace and conflict interventions, showcase learning from Northern Ireland and hear case studies from countries across the world.”

You can follow the conversation on Twitter through #peaceandbeyond or through following @BCouncil_NI.